On again off

3 09 2008

We have just survived five days of no power at the nursery. The ancient Lister enginge that powers the backup pump also decided to give up the ghost (4 cylinder head gaskets later – not a good buy) so we were dependent on a little Lombardini hooked up to 5000 litre emergency tanks and another tiny electric pump that we ran a cable to from the generator in the storeroom. By lunchtime today nerves were getting more than a bit frayed as I gave the Lister one more chance. It coughed and died again then the power came back.

It all started on Saturday with some load shedding and a fire that ripped through my garden in the afternoon. With no power there was little that I could do (we rely on a pressure tank for water pressure) except dribble a little water and swat ineffectively with a wet T shirt. Property was never in much danger but now I have to look at a blackened lawn until the first rain in a couple of months or so.  Elsewhere the fire burnt a tree that fell onto a power line on Sunday night (still no power at the nursery) and it took the electricity authority until today to rectify that and another three faults in the area.

Then this afternoon the unofficial union official (the union is not even registered) pitched up whilst I was wrist deep in old diesel oil detaching the Lister from its mountings to go in for repair/whatever. He’s an obnoxious bastard whose only interest is keeping his members from straying by ensuring that HE negotiates their transport allowance on a monthly basis. I have, in the past, proposed a straight percentage but that was far too simple and would obviate his “negotiations”. The law is vague and requires “the employer to pay any incurred transport costs” to and from work. While there is transport along the road to work no-one uses it and they don’t give out receipts. No incurred cost – no need to pay anything. Oh no. They want their transport allowance (which they put in their pocket). I could provide transport and the whole issue would go away but I am the only driver around and I am not going to go collecting and returning every day at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Words were exchanged, an impasse generated and now tomorrow we go to the arbitrating body. The union person was most offended that I did not consult him if he was available and demanded to be picked up. I’d had enough and walked off. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

Cash notes are in short supply again so the black market rate cash for cash (US for Zim) is weak if one is selling US dollars at around 200 Zim to the US (it started the month off at 15:1 – remember?). By contrast the transfer rate (transferring from one account to another) is around 3500:1. It is legal to give whatever discount one likes so what I do at the nursery is price everything at the transfer or cheque rate and then give a fat discount for cash. Paying in real money is still proportionately cheaper as I mark up well above the black market rate. Annoyingly people still seem to just write cheques when what I really want is US dollars. Other companies are less scrupulous. On my way into town yesterday whilst trying to solve the problem with the Lister engine (injector OK, pump OK) I stopped to get some simple spares for the Land Cruiser engine I am rebuilding. A rubber bush and hose clamp that should have cost maybe 3 US dollars came to 7 and no they did not have change. Paying in Zim dollars was a silly price and no they did not give a discount for cash. Up until now I have resisted naming names in this blog but if you are in Zimbabwe, Universal Rubber & Hose can be given a miss.



One response

5 09 2008
Big Blister

All intensely frustrating! Do tread carefully with the union…

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